The Vikings' search for an offensive tackle included numerous all-star game and combine interviews as well as at least four of their allotted 30 predraft visits being with offensive tackles.
Michael Oher is the latest visit uncovered, as he was part of the team's mass predraft visits on April 8-9, according to what a source told Ed Thompson of Scout.com.
While none of the top three offensive tackles – Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe or Andre Smith – are known to have visited Winter Park – none of them is expected to have a chance of falling to the Vikings' selection at No. 22. Oher, of Ole Miss, and Arizona's Eben Britton could end up being available when the Vikings pick in the first round.
At 6-foot-4½ and 309 pounds, Oher has actually lost weight since he enrolled at Mississippi as one of the top prospects in the nation. He received numerous awards as a high school senior and was ranked the eighth-best prospect in the South by Scout.com coming out of Briarcrest Christian in Memphis.
Since then, Oher has been the subject of the book "The Blind Side: The Evolution of a Game," a writing that incorporates football with the human interest side, with Oher's rough life being a major part of the book.
"I grew up poor and was homeless a lot growing up. I just worked hard and came through a lot of adversity. I just kept working," Oher said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "I was taken in by a family that helped me get to college and pushed me. That's why I think I'm here today at this level."
Ironically, Oher said he hasn't even read the book because he was talking about his life with the author, Michael Lewis, so much during the formative stages of the writing. But Oher's homelessness, learning disabilities and hard upbringing came to national attention through the publishing of the New York Times bestseller.
"I don't think the book has affected my life," Oher said. "I think it's the same. Definitely there's been a change in that not a lot of people have the opportunity to have a book written about them, but I don't think it's changed a lot. A lot of people know about my life and a lot of the things I overcame."
While growing up in Memphis as one of 13 children in the family, Oher's father was murdered and his mother was a drug addict. He was in and out of foster homes until a wealthy family took him in and brought him up to academic speed with the help of a tutor.
The Vikings' visit with Oher may have helped them determine their level of confidence in whether or not he can learn an NFL playbook, a recurring question from draft analysts. Oher said a lot of teams told him they knew about his issues, but not many asked him about it at the Combine.
He defended his ability to learn by pointing out that he was on the dean's list his sophomore year and was an honor roll student "a couple of times. I'm a smart guy. I'm very smart," he said.
Oher said at the Combine he was about 15 to 18 hours short of graduating with a degree in criminal justice (he originally was a journalism major).
While his ability to comprehend has been questioned, few question his athletic ability.
"Oher is a dominant tackle who is a tremendous athlete presented in a massive frame," Scout.com's Chris Steuber wrote in his evaluation. "He's an outstanding pass protector who blocks with a wide base, has quick feet and easily knocks the opposition off their rush. He gets off the line well and is able to push defenders back in run situations. He demonstrates great balance, patience and a passion for the game."
Oher has started since the third game of his freshman year, playing guard his freshman season before being shifted to left tackle as a sophomore. He has become a three-time All-SEC selection, including first team in 2007-08, All-America in 2008 and a finalist for the Outland Trophy in 2008.
Oher said at the Combine he believes he is the best tackle in the draft.
"I think there are a lot of great players in the group, a lot of athletic players, myself included. It's gonna be a great year for us, I think," he said. "… To he honest, I feel that I'm the best at my position. I think I've proven that this year. In everything, I feel I'm going to grade at the top."
Oher said he needed to prove he can be a physical tackle, despite believing he is best on the left side of the line.
"I think my junior year, I was very athletic as an offensive lineman. I was kind of too athletic a lot of the time. I was channeling my abilities and doing the work, and my senior year, I showed everyone how physical I was and that I could be a nasty player and finish plays and took my game to a whole new level my senior year," he said. "I worked a lot more on my technique, staying low, firing off the ball and just finishing plays."
The Vikings can see all of Oher's physical ability on tape. They were likely looking to get more of feel for his ability to comprehend a playbook and his interaction with other players during his visit to Winter Park in the event that he was available to them with the 22nd pick.
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